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Microsoft Caught Rigging ZD Net Poll 768

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-funny-stuff dept.
Dj writes "Microsoft have been found to be rigging a ZDNet poll". Apparently they didn't dig on the idea of .NET losing. Of course as anyone knows, never trust an online poll because this sort of stuff is obviosly happening all the time. I just wonder how many comments posted around the net are posted with the same goals in mind.
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Microsoft Caught Rigging ZD Net Poll

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Magus311X (5823) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:23PM (#2810244)
    This is what their marketing department does all day ...

    Figures.

    -----
  • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan@gmaTWAINil.com minus author> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:23PM (#2810256) Homepage Journal
    Did Microsoft bother to write a script to do it, or did they just give everyone in the office building a salary increase based on how many times they clicked the mouse on the little button that day? :)
    • Nah, when 50 million people responded to that with "Neither", they'd wonder... so where did so many people who care about linux come from...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:46PM (#2810501)
      This is nothing new.

      Our company has 40k employees and whenever there is a big poll somewhere involving any of our products, a memo is sent out to the entire company telling everyone to go vote for our products.

      Needless to say, even a portion of that 40,000 can drastically change the skew of a poll.

      I always vote for a competitor because I find it detestible that my employer would do this.
      • Obviously, but that isn't illegal, that's simply backing your company. What is illegal, however, is when a person votes 228 times for his company. I'm not sure (no one is) if the email from MS to its minions, erm, employees specifically said, "Hey vote 300 times or you're fired." --But you never know, it might have.
        ...it just might have.
      • by Andrewkov (140579) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:21PM (#2810823)
        I always vote for a competitor because I find it detestible that my employer would do this.

        Your competitors are probably doing the same thing, so don't bother.

  • by jxqvg (472961) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:25PM (#2810264)
    I see CowboyNeal getting way fewer votes than I think he should in /. polls.
  • by swingkid (3585) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:25PM (#2810267)
    Many addled Microsoft employees mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan
  • by louzerr (97449) <Mr.Pete.Nelson@gm a i l .com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:26PM (#2810273) Homepage
    Wow, M$ must be really hurting for cash! They usually just buy a good rating!
  • Acually, ZDnet is sure in .NET won, Florida's votes haven't came it yet......
  • Damn. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Byteme (6617) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:26PM (#2810279) Homepage
    If I had known that MS would win I would not have voted for Cowboy Neal. (This is the last time I am voting for the Green Party).

  • by bricriu (184334) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:28PM (#2810294) Homepage
    ... this is particularly annoying because it's exactly this sort of statistic that will be used by middle-management (and/or Microsoft flacks) to justify switching project backbones to .NET

    "Well, look, this says 74% of programmers out there are eager to use .NET! Guess we should too!"

    It's not like this is some hobbyist site. It's ZDNet. Some people actually listen to them.

    And it's not like you're voting for Coolest Transformer of All Time. They're creating a grossly skewed statistic that could actually be used to figure out where millions of dollars gets invested.
    • Grimlock.

      :-)
    • by Reckless Visionary (323969) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:50PM (#2810525)
      Some people actually listen to them.

      Anyone who makes their IT purchasing and development decisions based on online polls deserves what they get.

      • Absolutely true. Obviously, the point I was making wasn't that this poll alone will move mountains, it's an egregious attempt to hype their own drek... and an example of what Microsoft loves to do. Marketing over substance. And maybe this "statistic" will get included in MS press releases that get shipped to respectable magazines, and industry overviews that get sent to managers, and... you see where I'm going?

        And while I agree that the manager who makes the boneheaded decision to use X based on an online poll deserves something nasty, what about all the drones (like myself) under him who protest, accomplish nothing by said protest, work with crappy tools, and then get laid off when the company/division/project tanks?
    • I think that most serious IT managers will listen to the analysts like Gartner, etc.

      Who we *know* are 100% honest, trustworthy, and unbiased. Completely uninfluenced by vendor lobbyists or other sources of information.
  • Funny... (Score:3, Funny)

    by nam37 (517083) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:29PM (#2810309) Homepage
    We'll I guess I can assume that I am the only one that finds this funny... Companies do this stuff ALL the time.. and just because some over vealous programmer or marketing rat thought to send all his buddies over to vote, doesnt mean that this is further evidence of some kinda pro-monopolistic attitude... its just people who like their products... ...not that i dont think they ARE a monopoly (I think that has been effectively proven) but....
  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:30PM (#2810315) Journal
    They'll be trolling slashdot and having dead people send letters to their congresscritters.
  • by Graabein (96715) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:30PM (#2810325) Homepage Journal
    ID ZDnet knew the poll was rigged, why didn't they pull it ASAP?

    The poll is still available here [zdnet.co.uk]. It carries no warnings or disclaimers that the poll has been massively rigged by Microsoft.

    Why?

    • by OWJones (11633) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:41PM (#2810459)

      The poll is still available here. It carries no warnings or disclaimers that the poll has been massively rigged by Microsoft

      Sounds like it's time to put the Slashdot 31337 h@x0r sk1llz to use and swing the poll back the correct way. I mean, are we really going to let some MS-scripting-language-based ballot stuffer beat out a good ol' PERL ballot stuffer??

      I think not. :) Let's get to work.

      -jdm

    • Fire vs Fire? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by larsu (473425)
      If anyone wanted to slashdot a ZDNet 'Will you install Linux on a computer in 2002' poll... the address is http://polls.zdnet.co.uk/zdnuk/?p=26&m=1 [zdnet.co.uk].
    • by bungalow (61001) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:26PM (#2810877)
      It appears that the article has been edited since you linked to it.

      The new test reads thus:


      On 21 December, ZDNet posted a story reporting the preliminary results of this poll, which showed a large majority of respondents who said they planned to deliver applications via Web services by the end of 2002 favoured Java for the job. At the time, Java outranked .Net by a factor of three in this poll. By early January, the position had reversed; the results are shown here. An investigation indicated that Microsoft employees used vote-rigging to distort the results. The full story can be found here.
  • by Masem (1171) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:31PM (#2810329)
    In their 3rd point on the reputed email, ZDNet has to say:
    We know this, because our logs include the Web address where visitors browsed from; when people click there from a Microsoft Exchange email message, Exchange helpfully gives us the subject line and username.
    Certainly, Referrer is a common way to determine where people are coming from, but it seems to be a rather interesting privacy/security problem that MS Exchange would include the username in the HTTP request referrer field. If anything, I would expect a link in email to be a direct entry into a site, thus having no referrer field. (Of course, those of us that use plain text email simply cut and paste, and referrer ends up empty anyway). Even with this, I can see how this would easily work for spammers: have the 'click here to opt-out' link, and even if you have to do additional work on the end site to 'opt-out', they have guarenteed your email address at that point.

  • by dozing (111230) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:31PM (#2810336) Homepage
    Several of the voters evidently followed a link contained in an email, the subject line of which ran: "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET!"

    Is this terribly different from what happens when slashdot has a post announcing some poll about linux? I'm sure we've rigged our share in the past. Not that I think Microsoft is right. I'm just trying to give a little perspective and play devil's advocate for a moment. Feel free to mod me down because you dissagree.

    • by Hooya (518216) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:45PM (#2810483) Homepage
      it's not terribly different only just slightly. When i hit a link on slashdot asking me to go vote for something, i'm not being paid by slashdot in any shape or form. thus there is no obligation on my part to comply with that request. whatever my reactions are are solely mine. on the other hand, when your employer asks you to 'stop what you're doing for a minute and go do this...', you have been asked to do something for which you are being paid for (you are on company time).

      Therefore, we could conclude that people were paid to vote on MSs behalf. Whereas when we click on a link on slashdot, unless you're CmdrTaco or CowboyNeal etc.. you're not being paid to do so and are under no obligation. not terribly different, but slightly enough to make a huge difference. Asking someone to vote one way or the other vs. paying someone to do so. slightly different.

      • Therefore, we could conclude that people were paid to vote on MSs behalf.

        We could indeed conclude that, if we are in the habit of drawing conclusions from evidence so slender it's all but non-existent.

        Sorry, but I don't buy it. There's no evidence that anyone was paid, or that there was any concerted effort, or that their was any conspiracy. Yes, the votes originated from a microsoft.com account, yes emails appear to have originated from a microsoft.com account, no there is no evidence of 'official' action.

        Three guys from the .net programming department could have gotten this ball rolling with almost no effort, using their own adress books. Simple lemming psychology, a 'forward this to everyone' line in the email, and corporate conformity does the rest. I've seen it happen within my industry, (which is non tech BTW), as well as on endless newsgroups, forums, etc... Here on Slashdot, it's even got a nickname, The Slashdot effect.
    • Who cares about slashdot polls? iDoorstop vs. iMelon? Sheesh.

      Besides, read the disclaimer:

      "If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane."

      ZDNet, however, is an important source of information for clueless, pointy-haired decision makers (or so I've heard). The fate of our fellow programmers lie in the hands of PHBs and ZDNet polls! :)
    • Is this terribly different from what happens when slashdot has a post announcing some poll about linux?


      This is exactly why online polls, and many other polls have to be taken with a grain of salt - all of the suddon you have 45,000 people voting for .NET.

      A couple of over-zealous programmers decide to write some script and all of the suddon Microsoft is condoning "rigging a poll".
    • The same thing happened 3 years ago with "Hank the angry drunken Dwarf" poll which saw him win people magazine's third Annual Most Beautiful People Poll on its website http://www.thebee.com/bweb/iinfo106.htm I'm sure if slashdot had known about this poll and microsofts winning efforts, it would have been countered and the polls would have been balanced.
    • I think one of the primary reasons people use polls is as a "weapon of the underdog". If you're rooting for use of the most visable/highly-advertised and touted product, you have no need for a poll.

      People like to arm themselves with statistics when they're trying to defend an alternate choice. Right now, Linux is one of those alternate choices.

      Therefore, you can expect the Linux community to get vocal about going to site X or Y and casting a vote in favor of the OS. Microsoft, on the other hand, would really only do this to ensure that opposing views are silenced. They don't need a ZDNet poll to convince people to use .Net, or any of their other products.
    • Are you going to get fired for disregarding the suggestion on slashdot? Might a microserf get fired for disregarding a ``suggestion'' by his boss? Are you going to lie because Commander Taco asks you to? How about that hypothetical microsoftie? Might he lie if his boss suggests it would affect his next performance review? Still can't see any difference? I think that the slashdot example is simply advertising the poll, while MS was engaged in something really reprehensible.


      The one difference that I see is that most of the microsofties who voted probably will get involved with a .net project, someday. Writing it, if nothing else. Most of the slashdot script kiddies are only dreaming.

    • It's a lot different. Tons different.

      The microsoft customers who followed that link in their email didn't neccessarily know what they were really doing when they clicked the vote button. Any one of us (I hope) could have realized - hey! This is a mass email and I'n helping Microsoft win a poll by being a tool in their ballot stuffing!

      Here, people say, "Guys, I saw this Linux poll. I know you're all linux fans, had you seen it, you'd have voted for it too!"

      Somehow, I doubt that all of these people on microsofts email list were people who even KNEW what Java was, just in case they decided to read the other possible choices. Yeesh.
  • by sllort (442574)
    First of all this wasn't some deep dark conspiracy to use a masterfully written web script to rig a poll. Instead, they just sent a chain email to vote for their side. This has happened at Slashdot; here, click here [slashdot.org] to vote to fire Jon Katz. See?

    I think the real humor in this situation is that they got busted by Exchange passing the subject line in the HTTP header when you click through. Their own anti-privacy measures just bit them in their collective corporate ass. Maybe this will cause them to think twice next time?

  • What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:32PM (#2810353) Homepage Journal
    What probably happened is, some MS sales guy stumbled across the poll so he drafted an e-mail entitled "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET!" This goes along with the take-no-prisoners attitude that has been seen coming from MS execs like that sales guy who wrote the "kill linux" e-mails. So the e-mail makes the rounds, everyone at MS clicks over to the poll and votes for .NET. Nothing major, just shows you why web polls can't be trusted.

    I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS.. probably just a salesman who thought it would be a good idea to get everyone to vote in the poll.
    • Re:What happened (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Satai (111172) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:30PM (#2810910)
      I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS.. probably just a salesman who thought it would be a good idea to get everyone to vote in the poll.

      The question on my mind... was he fired - or promoted?

    • by Omnifarious (11933) <<gro.suoirafinmo> <ta> <hsals-cire>> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:34PM (#2810952) Homepage Journal

      I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS.. probably just a salesman who thought it would be a good idea to get everyone to vote in the poll.

      And the attitude and outlook required to think this was a good idea, and for lots of people within the organization to act on it is organized by people at a high level in MS. They bear culpability for the actions they encourage in their employees.

      It is precisely because their top level execs encourage this kind of ethically bankrupt thinking among the rank and file that Microsoft is in the anti-trust hot water it's in today, and precisely why they're such an evil company.

      • Re:What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Pfhreakaz0id (82141) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:46PM (#2811077)
        oh come on? "ethically bankrupt"? This would happen at just about every business. I guarantee you, at least at any I ever worked at. That doesn't make it any less wholesome, but don't pretend that Microsoft is ethically any different, it's just a matter of scale.
        • Re:What happened (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bearpaw (13080)
          oh come on? "ethically bankrupt"? This would happen at just about every business.

          Even if it would happen at just about every business -- even if it would happen at every business -- that doesn't mean that it's not ethically bankrupt. What is or is not common behavior is not relevant to what is or is not ethical behavior.

    • Re:What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KjetilK (186133) <kjetilNO@SPAMkjernsmo.net> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @03:08PM (#2811238) Homepage Journal

      I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS..

      Yeah, and I would say this isn't really about rigging. Hey, how many geeks here would hack up a perl script to vote for something cool (say a project you worked on), if somebody passed along an e-mail about it?

      Come on! Everybody does this! It's the reason why /. polls are the way they are. Nobody should ever trust a web poll for anything, it's as simple as that.

      I remember when a bunch of guys here at the IT department (the guys who sit around with root access for all campus computers) threw in tens if not hundreds of computers in voting for their favorite beer a hot summer night. It was a big newspaper that ran the vote, and their script prevented one IP from voting more than once every ten minutes, but they could vote efficiently enough with hundreds of computers voting... After they got their own favorite beer on top, they voted a non-alcoholic beer up to 2nd place just to make a point.... :-) The newspaper never checked the logs or realized what had happened, they only noted a few surprising results...

      I bet there are geeks at M$ who are behind this. OK, we know that you sold your soul to M$, but hey, step forward and tell us about it, I'm sure we will understand...! :-)

  • Hmmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Null_Packet (15946) <nullpacket@nOsPaM.doscher.net> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:35PM (#2810376)
    It seems far more likely that an internal e-mail encouraged MS employees to vote for .NET, and they did. They seem quick to point out that some people from the microsoft.com domain tried to use automated voting, and they therefore blame that on the parent corporation. I'd have a much easier life if I could blame all my problems on my employer too.

    My questions would be, "Did anyone else outside the microsoft.com domain try to use automated voting for any of the contestants?" or, "Do you have any evidence that the e-mail sent out encouraged ballot stuffing?"

    How would a simple email with a link encouraging employees to vote be different than a presidential candidate sending an e-mail out telling everyone register for their party or even go an vote? Sure, there's an obvious bias, but what makes you think that *anyone* is voting that doesn't have a bias?

    This all reeks of sensationalism and media-based MS-bashing. Whether you like MS or not, MS-bashing is old-hat.
    • Re:Hmmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjh (57755) <mark.hornclan@com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:51PM (#2810531) Homepage Journal
      How would a simple email with a link encouraging employees to vote be different than a presidential candidate sending an e-mail out telling everyone register for their party or even go an vote? Sure, there's an obvious bias, but what makes you think that *anyone* is voting that doesn't have a bias?

      Becuase it's a poll. When someone reads that 74% of poll respondants think blah, they assume that it's an accurate sample of what everyone thinks. But those same people conveniently gloss over the fact that this is a non-scientific poll.

      What you see here is an attempt by Microsoft to convince the their skeptics that lots of people like Microsoft. Microsoft couldn't care less about the people who already chose them. They want to convince the people who voted for Java that they're in the minority, and they ought to reconsider switching to .NET... "everyone's doing it!". And in the software developer world, the more in the minority you are, the more difficult it is to sell your wares.

      It's worse than normal marketing. It's seriously slimey. It's not just a lie. It's an attempt to make someone else (ZDNet) lie for you! It's despicable... and no less so when /. does it.

    • Re:Hmmmm.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:28PM (#2810896) Homepage Journal
      If a UPS guy runs over somebody while on UPS time, UPS is held accountable.
      If the register person at McDonalds reaches across the coulter an punches you, McDonalds is responsibles.
      If I write a sript that causes another company to loose all its data, the company I work for is responsible.

      Sure, the people who commmit the offence are to blame as well, but company are responsible for the actions of there employee's.

      If a company sent you an email that said "Please remeber to Go Vote", an thats it, fine, got no problm with that, but if a company says "Go Vote For Gore" Now we have a problem. PIF, companies have gotten into trouble for encouraging employees to vote for a specific candidate.
  • Meanwhile, apparently it's too much effort to even link to their own story explaining their poll, so that when Microsoft tries to use it as propaganda there's a big 'How this poll was rigged by Microsoft' link...
  • by Saxifrage (111109) <ithildin@te l e p o r t.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:35PM (#2810391) Homepage
    Obviously, anyone who's ever tried to take a poll knows that everyone tries to vote multiple times. Of course, there's no easy way to know whether someone is doing it or not; IP logging only works for those with static IPs, and between dialup and large-environment DHCP God only knows that it's hard to do that.

    I don't want to think about it this way, but maybe cookies are the way to go for this sort of thing?

    Either that, or we need to stop thinking of Web polls as reliable.

    -Sax
  • by 0xA (71424) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:36PM (#2810392)
    Microsoft anounces new "Hailstorm Zeigiest"

    As show recently on the website www.ZDnet.com online polling is often subject to massive fraud and inapropriate uses. Microsoft has again chosen to lead the way in this expanding market with an extention to the Hailstorm initative called "Zeitgiest".

    "Hailstorm.Zeitgeist.net will allow content creators new abilities to track online poll submitions and ensure acurate results", says Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. "With this technology available our marketing departments will finaly be able to track down those whiny little.. Oh, wrong one." *FUMBLE* *FUMBLE* "This technology will will allow webmasters to do neat stuff with authentication", continued Gates.

    When asked for his input CEO Steve Balmer added "DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS!"

    In possibly related news 1337 script kiddy Dr3am!D3m0n on the IRC channel #hax0r5 commented, "Oh cool. That dwarf thing was funny but I guarantee RMS is gonna be on People's 25 Sexiest Celebrities this year."

  • by bildstorm (129924)

    You know, once upon a time, I was a big Microsoft fan. I liked how easy it was to do things, and how empowered I felt in running Windows. The other day I noticed (after a Google search) that Microsoft had a Content Management Server that was using .Net.

    Over the past several years I've become very negative towards Microsoft, since my Windows constantly crashed, and they were clearly trying to shut out others.

    About a week ago I thought to myself, well maybe there's just too my anti-Microsoft hype. Perhaps some of these e-mails being forwarded to The Register [theregister.co.uk] are just hoaxes.

    But now today, ZDNet reveals Microsoft trying to disrupt things and act like a big bad monopoly. Now, ZDNet has kissed Microsoft's butt so often it isn't fun, and David Coursey who's now running Anchordesk is such a pro-Microsoft weenies I get sick. But there it is, on a ZDNet site (albeit the UK site, but still).

    Guess the hype just ain't hype.

  • Hmmmm...maybe someone from the "Linux Rulez" crowd has hacked it, made it look like MS was voting for themselves when really they weren't, revealed it, and MS is really innocent but looks like the big evil giant when really they have done no wrong because the d00d hacked the site......yeah, that's what happened!!!!

    Plans within plans within plans!!!! :)
  • ".Net vote rigging illustrates importance of Web services"
    Oh, I thought "Net Rigging Illustrates Dishonesty of Microsoft" or something like that, or perhaps the fact they they have a hard time imagining competing in a market where they don't have domination or some massive advantage.
    "The inevitable conclusion is that these are some of the first salvos in what will be a bitter PR struggle. Microsoft may have shot itself in the foot this time, but future efforts may be a little more subtle."
    Um, yeah, Microsoft just started their first PR war and they might start using sneaky tactics soon! Um, anyone can go read http://www.mackido.com/History/Where_is_stack.html if they think MS's tactics are anything new... the company has been doing the same shit for at least 10-15 years, if not more...
    Well, I guess this dishnoesty probably wasn't official. More like just some sucky group of MS employees, I guess...
  • Hohum (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:39PM (#2810435)
    First, I'm sure we've all seen "please vote for X" campaigns on the internet. Just because it happens to be Microsoft employees in this case doesn't make it particularly more interesting.

    Second, Microsoft uses proxying for Internet-related stuff, which could make the multi-vote issue appear to be worse than it actually is, as many separate users would come from a single IP.

    Third, yes, it seems someone ran a script from within the microsoft.com domain. That could've been anyone in the company with a PC. My bet is on "random stupid employee". If it were an actual conspiracy, I doubt they would've done it from something within the microsoft.com domain.

    In short, it's the same bullshit that happens with every web poll. While it doesn't reflect well on the company, it almost certainly is the evil marketing conspiracy that everyone makes it out to be.

    • Re:Hohum (Score:2, Informative)

      by LEPP (166342)
      You must not have read the article. It almost certainly was not a script. ZD was tracking what links were used to get to the page. Fortunatly MS Exchange gave the link with the subject line of the email and the unames. This is no great conspiracy but it is kind of funny. This kind of crap is commonplace but it is funny when they get caught.

      LEPP
  • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:40PM (#2810439) Homepage Journal
    This is NOT about someone rigging an online opinion poll. That happens all the time, and more than a few polls have been Slashdotted in their time. It's no big deal, because most such polls have no significance.


    Rather, this is about a company creating an illusion of popularity, in order to sell a technology and a philosophy that customers are hesitent to buy. People are keen to keep up with the Jonses, but nobody wants to be caught with a dead fish. Microsoft knows this. The only way .NET will sell is if people believe it already is.


    THAT is the purpose of the ballot rigging. And this may actually be a further Monopoly violation. They are leveraging a monopoly in one area to create a monopoly in another. This is in violation of the Sherman Act, which Microsoft has been convicted of violating.


    Should this "incident" be taken to the courts, as evidence of further legal violations, by the dissenting States, I could very well imagine the judge being extremely unhappy with Microsoft. Breaking the law that you're already on trial for breaking generally doesn't win many friends.


    The leaked letters, alleging that Microsoft is trying to spy out Linux installations, and pressure companies into replacing them, during technical support calls, may also prove a bitter poison to Microsoft, come March.


    This is not the mark of a company in fear. This is the mark of a company that has had its fear glands surgically removed, and is hell-bent on enslaving all minds and all technology to its will.


    In short, Microsoft's recent attitudes are perfectly timed, given the recent LoTR movie release. Forget the Borg, Bill Gates is either Sauron or Morgoth.

    • This is not the mark of a company in fear. This is the mark of a company that has had its fear glands surgically removed, and is hell-bent on enslaving all minds and all technology to its will.

      Heh. I've never thought of Microsoft being a company full of Thargoids before :-) Maybe we ought to send a few INRA members with horribly beweaponed Asps into witch-space to sort them out...

    • Clearly they have once again violated the law, and will again be promptly slapped sternly across the knuckles. This time TWICE.
      That should teach 'em to fear the law!
  • Disclaimer: I'm not a Microsoft fan, but every now and then I pretend to be reasonable.

    The headline seems a bit misleading. Was any evidence presented that Microsoft the company, and not a handful of Microsoft employees, deliberately chose to rig the poll? It seems more likely that some developer in the web services group with a little too much team spirit saw the poll and sent a mail to other developers asking them to vote. Big deal. Then some jerk hacked up a form submission script to tilt the poll results in Microsoft's favor. Pretty sad, but again, big deal. As the editor said, you can't trust an online poll to represent anything approaching reality. (At least that's what I tell myself every time I view CNN quick poll results)
    • did you read the article?

      There was an internal email w/the subject line "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET". A good majority of the votes came from a referrer that had that SUBJECT line and the USERNAME coming from microsoft.com.

      228 votes from a single user there? That's not being a pro-MS worker. That's having some sort of incentive.
  • by f00zbll (526151) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:46PM (#2810496)
    Everyone knows alot of companies do it, but when this type of thing happens repeatedly, does it affect public perception? I mean really. If this was GM trying to win the public over about the safety of truck tires, would the public just roll over?

    It's terribly short sighted of tech companies to resort to this type of tactic, because it makes everyone in the industry look bad. Gloating over M$ getting bashed for this kind of behavior doesn't do much for improving public perception of technology companies. A lot of people I know already have a negative view of Information Technology and think it's eletist.

    Here's to hoping companies learn to behave more ethically, but I'm not holding my breathe.

  • I'm with Taco... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:51PM (#2810536) Journal
    Of course as anyone knows, never trust an online poll because this sort of stuff is obviosly happening all the time. I just wonder how many comments posted around the net are posted with the same goals in mind.

    Here's another question -- how many of these web polls are posted with the primary goal of getting posted in one or more advocacy forums and generating hits, which is why a lot of sites and mailing lists have a flat policy against announcing them? I mean, that's what web polls are for, right? So Mac / Java / BSD / Amiga / what have you fans can compete to see who can more thoroughly stuff the ballot box. Don't tell me you guys actually take those results seriously?

    I thought using the word "rigging" in this context ("Ohmigod! Microsoft is destroying the integrity of a ZDNet click-poll!") was as outlandish as it was going to get, but then already there's the guy [slashdot.org] pulling out the bold tag to wonder why the MS board is going to jail over this. Clearly, this is a job for that Craig guy who spent months pestering everyone on Gnotices and dot.kde.org to spam the poll on his site...

  • by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:52PM (#2810544) Homepage
    according to the poll numbers only 1057 people voted for .NET (1415 Votes Total), It wouldnt take much to get those kind of numbers, especially shooting out a company wide email.

    Where I work there are 1100+ people in my office and most just click links in email for the heck of it (can you say outlook virus?)...
  • by DeadBugs (546475) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:54PM (#2810558) Homepage
    He has to be, he's getting way too many votes
  • This certainly isn't the worst story that has been posted by Taco et al, but it's still bad. The fact that it can stimulate a lot of discussion doesn't make it any more intelligent.

    So, I think top level stories should be subject to moderation. Then, everyone would have an (approximate) idea of which stories really are the best.

    Hey, it works for posts! (at least IMHO)
  • so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donutz (195717) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:59PM (#2810599) Homepage Journal
    Not to sound pro-Microsoft (or pro-Linux, pro-*BSD, etc), but who really cares? it's just another web popularity poll with no scientific basis or anything. So someone at Microsoft saw the poll and sent around an email telling everyone to vote for .NET, and to pass the message along. This isn't any different than if Linux users did the same thing, pass an email around and tell people to vote Linux. The poll basically means NOTHING. The same thing happened at the college I went to, there was some online battle of the Mascots or something and I'd get emails from the IS dept secretary telling us to vote for Bucky Badger. Same exact thing.

    As for the automated multiple vote scripts...well, can't blame them for trying.
  • Happens all the time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ttfkam (37064) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:02PM (#2810634) Homepage Journal
    I really does, and not just online. I worked for a company that did websites for radio stations. We were reading results from a poll as part of an on-air contest where people could call in or use the web to vote for their favorite band. After a snafu with the data, we contacted the station to apologize for losing about a quarter of the results of the first few hours of the contest. We were expecting to be (quite rightly) reamed for it even though the contest had the rest of the week to run its course.

    As it turned out, they didn't mind at all. They had already decided who the top two choices would be and only cared which of the two came out on top. In short, Limp Bizkit was popular, but not THAT popular.

    I won't name names, but perhaps folks who listen to popular radio in the Chicago area (and other major venues) should keep this in mind the next time your radio station claims to give you what *YOU* want.

    It's not just online...
  • by ptrourke (529610) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:04PM (#2810659) Homepage

    Bill: Damnit, blocked again.

    Steve: Bill, if it didn't work the other 226 times you tried to reclick, what makes you think it will work the 227th?

    There is a very high incidence of people attempting to cast multiple votes, even though the poll script blocked out most attempts at multiple voting. The one that wins the prize made 228 attempts to vote. This person was from within the microsoft.com domain.

  • by seismic (91160) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:06PM (#2810679)
    There will soon be a poll on the Microsoft web site where 90% will indicate that Microsoft did nothing wrong and the allegation is completely unfounded.
  • No, I don't believe that the profit motive is an excuse for rigging a poll. But I'm surprised that someone hasn't tried to make this argument yet.

    TheFrood
  • History repeating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tim Macinta (1052) <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:09PM (#2810702) Homepage
    I just wonder how many comments posted around the net are posted with the same goals in mind.

    Microsoft got caught ages ago with its hand in the cookie jar doing exactly that with the Barkto indcident [essential.org].

  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:09PM (#2810710) Homepage

    ...where clueless managers (and politicians) make technological decisions based on polls and headlines, this sort of lying is very troublesome and dangerous. Such polls are important because they influence small-minded people with the power to control the software that gets written.

    Of course, the "powers that be" probably won't care that Microsoft cheated on this (or any other) poll. All they know is to bet on a winner -- Microsoft -- even if that winner is a lying, cheating scum-bag. After all, winning is all that matters in the U.S. today, isn't it?

    Damn, I'm getting cynical in my old age. ;)

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:10PM (#2810719) Homepage
    Look, I think this is stupid and lame, of course. Not too different from posting a link to a poll asking about a linux port to linuxgames.com... But still not cool.

    But have we forgotten about MS fabricating letters to congress? Using -dead- people as the names, so at least there would be a real name there? Forget stupid zdnet polls... MS has engaged in true astroturfing with the intent to sway government in their favor (above and beyond the usual political contributions/manipulation of the illuminati to put GWB in charge). There is no comparison between these two events, other than if MS will send false letters to congress it is 0 surprise to see them hacking an online poll.
  • by kingosric (472809) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:12PM (#2810738)
    But at least they are *incompetent* bastards....
  • by uslinux.net (152591) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:21PM (#2810816) Homepage
    Perhaps ZDNet needs a disclaimer? Something along the lines of:

    • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
    • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
    • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
  • by xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) <xanadu.inorbit@com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:25PM (#2810874) Homepage Journal
    On the poll archive page [zdnet.co.uk], there is this message at the top:

    Poll Results
    On 21 December, ZDNet posted a story [zdnet.co.uk] reporting the preliminary results of this poll, which showed a large majority of respondents who said they planned to deliver applications via Web services by the end of 2002 favoured Java for the job. At the time, Java outranked .Net by a factor of three in this poll. By early January, the position had reversed; the results are shown here. An investigation indicated that Microsoft employees used vote-rigging to distort the results. The full story can be found here [zdnet.co.uk].
  • by blamanj (253811) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:36PM (#2810977)
    At least the audience at ZDNet is likely to be aware that such things happen.

    What bothers me is when CNN puts up a poll like "Now that we've squashed the Taliban, should we go after Saddam Hussein?"

    For one thing, their audience is less likely to be familiar with statistical methods, and for another, I'm sure I've heard them report the results of "an online survey" as news, which gives it far more weight than it deserves.
  • Self-selection polls (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:38PM (#2811001)

    The basic problem here is that the poll's respondents are self-selecting, which as any good statistics student -- or anyone with a modicum of common sense -- will tell you, immediately renders the results dubious at best.

    Several people on this thread have observed that if the story had made /. in time, the slashbots could have voted it back the other way, "evening things up". Unfortunately, all that happens then is that the poll's response is 45% MS, 45% /. and 10% real respondents, whose opinion is lost in the noise. In other words, the poll result now looks like it's close but isn't actually representative at all. If anything, that might be more misleading; at least the MS rig is obvious.

    Such is the price you pay for self-selection. It only takes one group to get together with a common purpose, and your result will go their way. This is why the consultants choose a random sample of a few thousand from their target audience -- and then ask them questions carefully phrased to bias the responses in favour of the desired outcome, but we'll gloss over that bit... :-)

  • by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel.hedblom @ g m ail.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @03:16PM (#2811289) Homepage Journal
    To most PHBs this would be considered big news that Microsoft intentionally tried to alter an online poll. Just because "we" know how they have behaived badly before doesnt meen that the PHBs do. Most of them are just aware of what the MS salesperson tells them when he visit their company. No sane person would let MS into their company if the knew what they wore locking themswlves into and just how low MS seems to be willing to go in their marketing and sales efforts. Im not biased, just well informed after 20 years in computers.
  • by Pinball Wizard (161942) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:06PM (#2811666) Homepage Journal
    I don't recall reading in the poll that Microsoft employees were not allowed to vote. Shit, they have 40,000 people working for them. Is it not possible that the poll could have been won fair and square with the majority of respondents coming from the microsoft.com domain?


    OK, so at least some users cheated and voted more than once. But its doubtful that upper management directed the cheating or would have even condoned it, as obvious cheating would only apply more tarnish to Microsofts reputation.


    As far as I'm concerned, unless the poll specified that Microsoft employees were ineligible to vote, its a valid win, even if 95 percent of the respondents came from the microsoft.com domain.

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